Of course, Madonna’s sinewy arms are not the result of chowing on charcuterie plates and soufflés between her workouts and concerts, so my experiment has a dietary component. A serious one. Each week is different—for some, Anderson insists that I lug around glass jars of green juice and kale salad to fashion shows, and on others, she has me on a daily regimen of two Think Thin bars, one piece of grilled fish and a side of spinach. During the times when I am allowed to—gasp—eat in a restaurant, I am instructed to tell waiters that I am allergic to oil, though I can never bring myself to actually do that. There are more lost weekends and carb-heavy rebellions than I’d like to admit, such as the nine-course tasting menu at Italian hot spot Falai that I indulge in at the beginning of week six.
In time, I get used to the tough workouts—but never the complications that come with them: the attendant travel time, the gym bag stuffed with carefully preportioned meals and cosmetics, the inability to schedule breakfast meetings. Then again, the changes I see almost immediately are motivating: major arm and ab definition, a shocking flattening at the top of my chest and the sudden absence of “armpit fat.” Friends and coworkers comment that I look narrower and that my butt is lifted (according to the measurements, it really did shape-shift, clocking in at four inches higher). Though the numbers on the scale don’t change drastically (from 127 to 123), the measurements are astonishing—10 different calculations that add up to a loss of 40.5 inches. On the last day, Anderson measures my hips five times to make sure she’s not seeing things. My body did change—dramatically—but my body type stayed intact. Surprisingly, this turns out to be a happy result: I am still curvy, but my curves have unprecedented tone and proportion.
Anderson, whose determination throughout the experiment is unflagging (one morning she greets me by exclaiming, “I’ve been stressing out about your butt!”), wants more time to see what she can really do. She concedes that while “it might not be the most dramatic result for you, for the rest of your life, we just did such important work.”
I end the experience feeling triumphant, but aware of a cruel reality: In order to improve and then maintain my results, I must continue, forever and ever. “That’s the trickery of it,” Anderson says. If I stop now, she warns, the lifted and toned limbs will be back to blah in two weeks. But because my career doesn’t depend on my having a sample-size bod, I fully intend to return to my normal diet, one in which brown rice is not the devil, and to reacquaint myself with lazy Saturday mornings in bed. After all, such are the benefits of the non-red-carpet life. But I have also decided to continue the workouts with Anderson’s trainers four days a week—a huge step up from my monthly session of yoga. It’s this change that is perhaps most shocking to my friends, my family and myself—a change that no tape measure can track.